I loathe the term “fake news”. It’s fair to say I detest it with every facet of my curmudgeonly being.
Having seemingly started life as a suitably simplistic, go to response for anything which didn’t sufficiently jive with Donald Trump’s delusions, it’s now become ingrained in the common vernacular; poisoning all manner of discourse by allowing ease of access to the most obnoxious of dismissals while perfectly pandering to the detail deficient sloganeering which has similarly infested our politics.
Which is why, having rather firmly established that fake news as a concept is a festering boil lodged up the arse crack of our culture, it’s somewhat disconcerting to see our own government not only employ it with jovial abandon, but actively revel in it.
As troubling as it is to see a government we rely upon for maintaining a vaguely functional society indulging in such brazen deception, it would be inaccurate to portray it as in any way surprising. With a cabinet stuffed with Vote Leave cronies who somehow managed to escape the associated miasma of corruption and deceit with their careers inexplicably intact, the ghoulish, almost ethereal visage of Disinformation Disseminator in Chief Dominic Cummings has left conspicuous fingerprints upon every single government communication.
And with terminal deceiver Boris Johnson as Prime Minister, you’ve got both a totemic figurehead and morality free vessel through which the bullshit can really flow.
While keeping tabs on the often snooze inducing, beyond tedious world of general government business is largely a venture reserved for the politically inclined or misery sadists, the current administration have, in the blink of an eye, got to work upturning the proverbial apple cart and setting it ablaze in a bewildering display of propagandic pyrotechnics. Barely a session on social media passes by without happening across a peculiar mix of gaudy press releases from the Tory party; either hammering you with painstaking rhetoric which is regimented to the point of being robotic, or cynically yanking on your heartstrings with video shorts eulogising the NHS – eking out every last drop of political capital from a highly valued institution before it’s sold off to a megalomaniacal Wotsit with a toupee.
My own cynicism and admitted political biases aside however, there’s something undeniably unsettling about all of this – and I’m deeply concerned that it seems to be passing through the zeitgeist largely undetected.
Perhaps we as an electorate have simply become too blasé as to the current political landscape – beaten down to the point of begrudgingly accepted submission having lived through the past few years of relentless subterfuge and endless scheming from those who claim to represent us.
Brexit hasn’t just torn us apart, it’s all but irrevocably neutered us as a discerning nation. Dazzled to the point of blindness with nebulous concepts and baseless assertions being fired at us from all angles, no longer do we as a collective seem to even partially raise an eyebrow at governmental incompetence or staggeringly illogical rhetoric. Little is made of Boris Johnson claiming there won’t be customs checks in the Irish Sea as he signs a deal which places customs checks in the Irish Sea. Barely anyone seems especially bothered by members of Johnson’s own cabinet directly contradicting both their Prime Minister and each other as to how this deal will even work. Most chilling of all, barely a whiff of widespread public outcry is to be found as the government not only attempt to force it through Parliament without due scrutiny or any economic impact analysis to hand, but outright decry such logical procedures as “for the birds”.
Concerned? Don’t be. It’s the “will of the people”, remember? After all, they “know what they voted for” and any attempt to question either the feasibility or sanity of proceedings should be considered a bitter attempt to “overturn democracy”.
Sound ridiculous? Well, it is – but nevertheless, it remains a persuasive narrative. I live in an area wherein which Leave achieved a substantial majority. People buy this – irrespective of whether or not I’m able to understand exactly why.
It is due to this that the mere thought of an election anytime soon fills me with a cold sense of dread. While I’d love to be fully on board with the notion that we can rid Number 10 of this most ghastly of administrations, I suspect many are underestimating Boris Johnson.
Sure, he’s a demonstrably awful Prime Minister – of that there can be little doubt. However during electoral campaigns – and indeed referanda – the game significantly changes. The regrettable concept of optics comes into play and the message being transmitted takes overwhelming precedent above apparently outmoded criteria such as competence and suitability.
It may be commonly accepted amongst political aficionados that Boris Johnson is more full of shit than a herd of diarrhetic elephants, but is the passive swing voter (of which there is a substantial demographic) suitably engaged as to be aware of this lamentable character trait?
The answer to this question is one that unfortunately escapes me and will be revealed only through the passage of time. An election at some point in the near future is now a grim inevitability and you can be sure that Johnson and Cummings will be prepared to say whatever it takes to drag them over the line.
Naturally the actual truth will be in perilously short supply in the oncoming propaganda blitz, but I fear that won’t especially matter.
After all, who doesn’t like being told exactly what they want to hear?Follow @grahamlithgow